The day has come. The alarm goes off at 2:45am. It's pitch dark, and silent out. A quick call to the Beeson's room and Michelle agreed to come over and watch Annie while Troy takes Dave and I to THE RIM (Thank You again Michelle). I walk outside into the dark and it's warm. No need for tights or much extra clothing. I decide to just wear my Core Concepts long Sleeve Convertible Top and do the sports bra thing when it gets hot. I grab a Mix1 and some Trader Joes snacks and Dave and I get in the car. We are buzzing with excitement. Both of us are jittering and can't wait to get started. The SPOT is on and in tracking mode.
Troy drops us at the Bright Angel Trailhead and with a quick kiss Dave and I are off into the canyon. The stars were amazing. There was no moon and it was pitch black. You knew there was a huge HOLE just off the trail but we couldn't see a thing. When Dave and I would stop for potty breaks we would turn off our headlamps and check out the Milky Way. We took our time going down and hit the 3 mile rest house at 4:30. 20 minute miles downhill, now that's slow!
As we pulled into Indian Gardens at about 4.5 miles in we saw some runners just heading out. We were shocked to see other runners since it was Monday. Another mile or so and we realized those runners were Michelle and Keith. We hooked up with them and ran down to the mighty Colorado River. It was teal green and gorgeous. We crossed the Bright Angle footbridge as a group and continued on towards Phantom Ranch. The Cantina at Phantom was closed just as we expected so we watered up and headed out at 6:15am. It was warm enough to loose my long sleeve top.
The next 9 miles were insane. The box canyon lived up to it's accolades and it was just like I remembered it when I was 17. The reverberation of the water off the steep canyon walls made it loud. Rather than making our way up as a group of four, we traveled as two groups of two so that everyone could run at a pace they felt comfortable. I could feel my pack start to chafe my back, so I put my top back on.
At the end of the box canyon we ran by Ribbon Falls, it's a separate jaunt over to the falls which we did not take. We encountered the infamous water crossing which we though would be high due to recent rains. It was a joke, barely ankle deep. There is a little six foot waterfall directly under the crossing and I can see how someone might get skittish if the water is deep.
Onwards through Cottonwood campground (very cute) and up to the Roaring Springs Ranger Cottage. This was the water stop that I was so worried about. I wasn't sure if the water would be hard to find or what. Luckily as we rolled in the first thing we saw was a sign that said drinking water. It was very clear, and obvious. We stopped to refill. I did a little doctoring on my top (sorry Core Concepts) and shoved down some beef jerky. Michelle was feeling her knee and made the wise decision to turn around and head back to the South Rim, she was in for a 36 mile day.
From here it gets steep. It's 5 miles to the top, and you go from 4,650ft to 8,250ft. It's steep, and up up up. About a half mile into it Dave's achilles started to act up and there was a popping sound involved. He was feeling so good, but made the wise decision to turn back. He's headed on a big backpacking trip to alaska soon and I would have been so bummed if he compromised that trip.
So, it was Keith and I. We were feeling really good and having a blast and we just pushed onwards up the canyon. The climb to the North Rim is amazing, red canyon walls all around and at times the trail is cut out of the wall. You look in front of you and you have no idea where the trail goes, it's hidden. Each segment is revealed in its own time. We ran into a trail crew that told us Andrea was about a half hour ahead of us and that we had 2 1/2 miles to go. It was actually about 3 1/2!
We finally hit the Supai Tunnel, which is the two mile to go mark. We were so jazzed about it, mostly because we felt so good. Both Keith and I were really on top of our nutrition and hydration. We were both still peeing, and downing calories every 30 minutes. We were also keeping a pace that was very maintainable for the both of us. All was good.
Then we ran into Andrea! She was coming back down from the North Rim and she told us we were about 1/2 mile from the top. She looked great all decked out in her trail running gear with camera, SPOT, and coats hanging off all her stash spots. She was running down at a great clip and looked very alert and within herself. We pressed on and sure enough, just a short time later we were at the top. Lots of hoots and hollers happened. We took some pictures and about 5 minutes after we got there we headed back down. There really is nothing to see up there, no view, just a parking lot and a bathroom. It's all about the journey, ya know?
Back down we went and after running for 10 minutes we ran into Anthony and Steve. Anthony was looking a bit out of it and Steve looked good. I pushed some beef jerky and almonds on Anthony, and watched him wolf it down. They were close to the top so we let them head upwards and expected to see them on the downhill where they would probably catch us. Keith and I then enjoyed a very quick rip roaring descent. Towards the end I started to get a blister on my left foot and it was one of those really painful ones. Most blisters don't even bother me until the running is over, but this one was very painful. I stopped immediately and changed to a clean sock and put a blister Band-aid on it. When we got back to Roaring Springs I washed my foot, dried it thoroughly, put a fresh blister Band-aid on it, put the clean sock on it and loosened my shoe. That did the trick and it didn't bother me the rest of the run, although even today it's still painful, and oddly, its quite tiny, but deep, more of a tear in my foot than a blister.
Next up was 9 miles of gentle rolling downhill and Keith and I were ready to do some real running. We picked up the pace, kept up with nutrition and let our legs run run run. This section's highlights were passing Andrea and getting to see her running strong, the temps heating up to near 100 degrees, and me taking a fall. I was filming and I didn't hop high enough over these "speed bumps" that they have million of in the trail. I clipped my foot and went down. A little scrape to the hand and ankle, nothing big at all. We were off and running 15 seconds later.
We arrived at Phantom Ranch 87 minutes after leaving Roaring Springs. Keith and I were pretty pleased that we ran sub 10 minute miles for the last 9 miles and that we enjoyed it and felt good. I downed some lemonade, bought some M&M's and pretzels, and mailed out a postcard. We spent about 15 minutes here regrouping and then we headed off to climb the South Rim. Keith and I were happy and peppy. It was so hot, but we continually dunked our hats in the water. We did a lot of hiking up the first steep part of the South Rim, but when the trail became runnable, we ran. And we just continued to run. We hit Indian Gardens at the twelve hours running mark and refueled. I slipped 3 NUUN tabs into my bladder, I love those things. At Indian Gardens we started thinking about the clock. All day we ignored how long it was going to take us, but at Indian Garden we started setting goals. Keith had started at 3:15 and wanted to beat the 14 hour mark.
I knew we could do it if we kept a hard pace and ran when we could. So, that's what we did. It look us 30 minutes to get from Indian Garden to the Three Mile Resthouse (1.5 miles, pulled in at 4pm). I knew then that if we did a push like that two more times we would be at the top at 5pm, putting us within our goals. We hiked so hard, we ran whenever we could. We hit the 1 1/2 mile resthouse at 4:30, right on track. Then it was the final push and we were still running.
We start to hear the shouts and cheers of lots of people. It was Troy and the support crew. We were visible to them at the top. We ran the rest of the way from that point on. We were so excited and both of us got a major adrenaline rush. Then there it was, the top, and everyone was there waiting: Troy, Michael, Michelle, Dave, Michelle B, and the three kids.
They had this great spot on the top that we hung out and waited for the rest of our group:
Andrea came up right about 6pm, and the boys hit the top at about 7:15. I let out a big sigh of relief. Everyone was safe. I think Steve and Anthony had a bit of a death march, but they were safe, and unharmed, and for that I was very happy.
In retrospect Keith and I had an absolutely phenomenal day. Just amazing. We never had a single down period. Some parts were harder than others but our attitude remained positive the entire way through. We both felt very lucky to have this experience. Having Keith with me throughout the day made my experience so grand, I feel very lucky to have such great training (and adventure) buddies.
Lastly, Troy, oh my goodness. This man takes care of me like no tomorrow. I am the luckiest woman alive. I am constantly coming up with all of these new "dreams" and he always helps me make them happen. He is my rock and if I didn't have such a stable man to come back to after these adventures, I would be sunk. A big hug to Annie too for being such a good girl the entire trip, we are very proud of her, and although I doubt she will remember the Grand Canyon, we'll be sure to take her back!
Also a big thanks to Core Concepts who supports me and keeps me clothed, even though I continually put their items through the ringer.
Let me guess, you have been stalking my blog for a week because you are waiting for the video....? Your homework...make sure the most recent version of QuickTime is on your computer. The video is 17 minutes long, and it has music and thus YouTube won't let me upload it. So, you are going to be viewing it on my MobileMe Gallery, and your gonna need an updated QuickTime.
Leave me some comment love, and if I get enough love, I'll think about posting it for a Saturday night movie for you all.